This past weekend I got nervous. I started to feel an undercurrent of anxiety on Friday that increased to a more noticeable level Saturday evening. I attended a conference here in Houston all day Friday and Saturday called Empowered to Connect, about parenting kids from “hard places”, meaning adopted and foster kids. But that wasn’t what made me nervous at all, that was encouraging and exceptionally helpful.
Why was I nervous? Because my marathon training schedule called for me to run ten miles that weekend and I couldn’t do it with my usual group at my usual time due to the conference. I asked around to see if someone would run with me on Sunday at 5am, but so far I had no takers. I was facing the prospect of running all ten miles alone.
Nevermind the fact that I’ve done exactly that before. Last year during training I had to run one ten mile run on my own, in my own neighborhood. I got it done and felt amazing for accomplishing that. But it was cooler weather and I was running during the day. This will be at 5am, in the dark, at 80 degrees and 95% humidity (as it is every day before dawn, at which time it heats up to 95 degrees).
Nevermind the fact that I ran 9.5 miles just two weeks ago. Forget the fact that I ran ten miles or more MANY times last training season. Forget that I ran my fastest 10k ever last weekend and a very fast (for me) tempo run just a few days ago. Suddenly all my progress was being drowned out by one voice in my head: fear.
I kept thinking of ways to get out of doing this run. I kept thinking maybe I’d just end up cutting it short. I was afraid I’d be late for church. But I knew that Sunday morning was the only time I’d realistically be able to get it done, alone or not. I knew the following weekend I had a conference again and the week after that is my ten mile race.
So how did I drive back the voices of fear and doubt? Well, first I took some necessary baby steps. I skipped the alcohol the night before. I reluctantly filled my water bottles and popped them in the fridge and freezer. I set out my hydration belt, my headlamp, my Garmin, my oatmeal for breakfast, my running shoes and clothes. I forced myself to go to bed at 9:30, and I set my alarm for 4am.
So when that alarm went off? I knew it was time to run. Luckily a friend of mine, Carla, was also running ten miles at 5am with her much speedier running partners, so I chose to at least start with them. When I arrived Carla asked if I wanted her to run with me. I knew she was used to going faster and I told her I’d be doing 5:1 intervals and left the choice up to her. She said she’d start with me and see how it went.
We started off faster than I normally would for such a long run, and I worried I might pay for it later. Her running friends took off and were out of sight pretty quickly, but Carla stayed with me. We had plenty to talk about and I didn’t even listen to my music. I kept my pace strong and she did my intervals with me. Five miles clicked by like it was nothing. We tried to stop at McD’s for me to use the bathroom but it wasn’t open yet, so we backtracked a little to Denny’s. I noticed her breathing harder than I was, but she didn’t seem to be struggling too much. I tried a new kind of gel, which wasn’t bad but made my hands incredibly sticky. She didn’t use any nutrition.
At about eight miles I noticed I was pulling ahead of her just a bit so I backed off our pace a tiny bit. She wasn’t carrying much water so we stopped at a gas station and bought some more. For the last two miles she struggled but I still felt amazingly strong. I talked her ear off and slowed up a bit, and when we hit ten miles she was done even though we weren’t back to our cars yet so we just walked the rest of the way.
I am SO glad she ran with me. It might have been completely different if I’d been alone, but it ended up being one of my best runs yet. All the training I’ve been doing paid off in spades. Having someone to talk to makes all the difference in the world for me. But if I hadn’t fought back the voice of fear, I never would have even showed up and I never would have experienced the huge surge of energy and accomplishment I felt that lasted the entire day.
So don’t listen to those voices of fear in your head! Punch fear in the face and just do it!